After 471 days without much live music due to COVID-19, Milwaukee finally put on a big concert with the hip-hop show We Outside at Wisconsin State Fair Park on Saturday night.
There was a setback: Co-star Yung Bleu did not survive.
In a since-deleted Instagram post, the rapper apologized to fans in Milwaukee, saying he hosted a listening party on Friday night and missed both of his flights to the show.
You would think it would have doomed We Outside. But honestly, he didn’t seem to be missed by the 600 or so fans on Saturday’s show.
While the crowd was delighted to witness the unofficial kickoff of the imminent return of concerts in Milwaukee, We Outside arguably served an even greater purpose – it provided an unprecedented live platform for Milwaukee street rap.
And it was led by Milwaukee’s biggest hit to date at hip-hop superstar: Milwaukee-born, Atlanta-based rapper Lakeyah.
Less than a year after signing with Quality Control – the game-changing Atlanta label behind Migos and Lil Baby – Lakeyah racked up 28 million YouTube views for her music videos, scored features from Gucci Mane, City Girls and Yung Bleu, and was right nominated for the Freshman Class of XXL magazine, the best annual trend watcher for aspiring rappers.
And in her first reunion show since becoming the first Milwaukee rapper to receive the honor, Lakeyah lived up to the hype.
Even without much live training from the pandemic, Lakeyah’s charisma was effortless on Saturday as she slid through some remarkable tracks from her first two QC mixtapes, “Time’s Up” and “In Due. Time “. She frequently filmed videos and took selfies on fans’ smartphones as she confidently dropped her worms.
But the real key to Lakeyah’s call on Saturday was how she made her fans, many of them female, feel like they were shining with her.
“I’m almost perfect,” the crowd proudly chanted at one point, which also serves as the theme for many of Lakeyah’s uplifting songs, albeit often expressed in much more raunchy terms.
Lakeyah convincingly presented herself as a beacon for her hometown on Saturday, vowing she would “bring the Midwest to the industry” to enthusiastic applause. And she co-starred with five different women who were brought on stage by the crowd to happily tweak through her track “Young and Ratchet”.
The only downside was the short duration of Lakeyah’s headliner set – just half an hour, which included an unnecessary second performance of his first quality control single “BigFlexHer”.
The crowd didn’t seem to mind the rehearsal, though it’s a shame Lakeyah couldn’t show her more vulnerable side through one of her R&B tracks, like “Windows” or “Too Much” .
But for anyone who wishes there was more of Lakeyah, they won’t have to wait long to see her again in Milwaukee. She will be at a special event at the Walker’s Lounge on July 3.
Platform for Milwaukee Street Rappers
Beyond Lakeyah, We Outside’s lineup has been rounded out by some of Milwaukee’s most popular and prolific street rappers who generate hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views on YouTube for their clips – but don’t. were never booked for big Milwaukee shows, even before the pandemic.
Gwapo Chapo instantly grabbed the attention of the crowd on Saturday, taking the stage with at least 20 people and dropping the first rap of the night with “All Racks”. The energy at We Outside took another leap forward when the general admission crowd was able to access the barricaded VIP section for the end of Chicken P.
But the highlight of the undercard was street-rap pioneer Solowke. Like Lakeyah, it was a homecoming for Solowke, for various reasons, following his 26-month prison sentence for possession of marijuana and a handgun, fleeing the police and jumping on bail. .
Solowke was so giddy to take the stage for his thrilling comeback single and twisted his tongue “Outta Sight Outta Mind” he repeatedly missed some of his verses. But it didn’t matter. Solowke was so happy, smiling, dancing and spinning, he illustrated how exciting it was that after 471 difficult days without concerts in Milwaukee, a night like We Outside was even possible.
- It would have bordered on cruelty if Milwaukee’s first big concert since March 2020 had been raining, and it seemed likely on Saturday morning. But apart from a few brief, ominous clouds, it was a happy evening with no rain or lightning.
- For anyone who wants to see live music again but is reluctant to be surrounded by a large crowd, We Outside would have been a good show to come back to the experience. There was plenty of space in the Wisconsin State Fair Park where the show was held, so anyone could have stayed away from people and still see and hear the show clearly. That said, most of the fans were eager to come together and get as close to the stage as possible as Lakeyah showed up.
- In an interview with Journal Sentinel, We Outside host and promoter Djay Mando has suggested that segregation may be a reason some Milwaukee street rappers haven’t been able to put on big shows, and that venue operators may also be hesitant to put them on. book given the drug and gun content in their songs and videos. But there was no problem at We Outside, which followed the same standard security protocols you would see at any gig. “We did this (expletively) the right way,” Mando said. “What they say is not true. We are not dangerous, we are just having fun.”
- With Yung Bleu off the bill, Mando must have been in charge of the stage longer than he probably expected, but he was a gracious presence and addressed his crowd, not just with the recent hits of hip-hop stars like Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby, but also dropping Milwaukee songs like the local hit “Big Money” by Munch Lauren.
- There were other artists from Milwaukee on Bill We Outside. Veteran rapper B. Justice performed “Free Flow”, a song he composed with the Milwaukee native and “The Chi” star Jacob Latimore. Troy Tyler did a cover of Ginuwine’s “Pony” that could rival the artist’s performance in August, when it opened for Boyz II Men at the Wisconsin State Fair. And Corey Pieper, who at one point merged pop with the musical styles of his Hawaiian heritage, has proven with newer material that he can adapt to current rap trends – albeit a hip-hop hybrid. and country, “All Day Long”, might have been a bit too off the beaten track for this crowd.
- For anyone at We Outside disappointed that Yung Bleu didn’t show up: He will headline the US Cellular Connection stage of Summerfest on September 4 – assuming he makes his flight.